The Scotch selection at the liquor store is a daunting place if you don't know what you're looking for. But every year, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, or SFWSC, helps Scotch drinkers pare down their choices with the competition's finalists for the best Scotch whiskies of the year.
For a couple weeks between March and April this year, 70 judges tasted nearly 5,000 spirits across dozens of categories to narrow down the best of the best. The finalists, which were just announced, will go head to head again to determine Best of Class and Best in Show winners. Those selections will be revealed in June this year. For the Scotch category, these are the 15 bottles that will go on to vie for the top prize in their respective categories.
Best Blended Scotch – 16 Years and Older
Clansman Blended Scotch
Clansman is produced at Loch Lomond distillery, and is a blend of Highland malt and grain whiskies.
Dewar’s Double Double 32 Blended Scotch
Heralded by Dewar's master blender Stephanie Macleod, this blended Scotch undergoes a four-step aging process before finishing in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks.
Price: $165 (375 ml)
Best Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch – Up to 12 Years
Lindores MCDXCIV Single Malt Scotch
This Lowland Scotch, distilled from Kingdom of Fife barley, spends time in bourbon, wine and sherry casks.
The Glengarry 12 Year Single Malt Scotch
Like Clansman, this whisky is made at Loch Lomond distillery, and over the course of 12 years, it spends time in three casks: bourbon, refill and re-charred.
Port Charlotte 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
This heavily peated Scotch comes from Islay (as one would expect), and it's produced at the Bruichladdich distillery.
Best Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch – 13 to 19 Years
Highland Park 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
This 18-year-old single malt has received many accolades over the years, and for good reason. We love the 12-year-old expression, but its older sibling ups the ante, bringing smoke, sweetness and umami.
Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt Scotch
If you only know Lagavulin 16 from Parks and Recreation's Ron Swanson, then you don't know anything about Lagavulin 16. It's a classic Islay whisky that should be a staple on everyone's bar cart.
Loch Lomand 14 Year Old Old Single Malt Scotch
Loch Lomand's 14-year-old Scotch is a non-chill-filtered whisky aged in American cask oaks. What does it taste like? Well the bottle literally shouts "Fruit" and "Cinnamon" on the label, so there you go.
Best Distillers’ Single Malt Scotch – 20 Years and Older
Ardbeg 25 Years Old Single Malt Scotch
You probably know Ardbeg 10, but if you get the chance, try Ardbeg 25 Years Old Single Malt Scotch, a beautifully balanced Scotch that justifies its price with its taste.
Benriach The Twenty Five Single Malt Scotch
The Twenty Five is a blend of both peated and unpeated whisky, which has been matured in a combination of sherry casks, bourbon barrels, virgin oak casks and Madeira Island wine casks.
Benromach Aged 40 Years Single Malt Scotch
Bottled at cask strength, Benromach's 40-year-old Scotch is matured for four decades in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks.
Best Independent Merchant Single Malt
Smokehead Single Malt Scotch
If you couldn't tell by its name, Smokehead's single malt is a peated bomb for those who want to breathe fire after their dram (not really).
GreatDrams Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
While the distillery from which GreatDrams sources from is unknown, what is certain is that this is a dram Scotch from Islay. The seven-year-old whisky is aged in first-fill bourbon barrels and packed with peat.
Best Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Johnnie Walker Green Label Blended Malt Whisky
Johnnie Walker is a stalwart brand in the Scotch game, and its Green Label is its only expression blended entirely of single malts. Aged for 15 years, the malts are sourced from the four corners of Scotland: Speyside, Highland, Lowland and Islay.
Blackhound Blended Malt Scotch
Blackhound's blended malt Scotch comprises single malts sourced from across the Highlands.